Slow cooked beef brisket but not as you know it!

This weekend we had a family trip to Filey. We love to sit down to a nice meal and some nice wine, as it is not often all eight of us get so much time together. It is the perfect excuse for me to spend some time cooking different meals.

We always plan meals before we go away, then have a supermarket food delivery once we have arrived at our beach retreat. Inevitably, we forget a few things, or don’t order enough of something. This would usually mean reverting to the same old same old, especially when it came to making the Sunday roast. We had ordered a mighty piece of beef brisket, and I had brought my slow cooker along. Normally I would pour bottle of red wine over it, maybe add some onion and seasoning and let it do it’s thing. But the evening before I had made a lamb ragu to serve with pasta. That had been a heavy red wine and tomato based sauce and I thought it would be a it boring to have similar flavours again. So I found myself having to improvise with other ingredients I had in. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.

The beef went in the slow cooker with a bottle of white wine, chopped celery, two chicken stock cubes and some rosemary, low and slow for 8 hours just as brisket should be cooked. The end result was incredible. I was blown away by the sweetness of the meat, and how this combination had somehow made the beef a less dense texture. It still made a comforting Sunday dinner but the taste was a real revelation.

It got me thinking about how if I had stuck to my fail safe options using a recipe, I might never have tasted this dish. So from now on I think a little more experimentation is needed.

 

 

 

The Old Station Tintern- Afternoon Tea

My husband is a big fan of afternoon tea. So when I found a place that does afternoon tea in an old railway station, I knew it would be a winning birthday present.

Tintern is a beautiful village which sits on the border of England and Wales on the banks of the river Wye. It is famously known for it’s Abbey and the impressive ruins that still stand hauntingly next to the river. We pass through Tintern on our commute to work, and always comment on the fact we need to come down and explore. Having booked afternoon tea in advance, we decided to spend the afternoon there looking round.

We parked at the north end of the village and wandered down along the river towards the abbey. It was a beautiful crisp day and we found that Tintern was not daft and had expertly located a pub, with a lovely garden, facing the Abbey across the road. The Anchor Inn is a a surprisingly big pub with a fabulous food and drink selection. I tend to judge a pub on the wine it serves and this was a winner! Who would have thought in late October we would be sat outside having a cheeky Sunday afternoon tipple, warmed by the sun with such a stunning view? 

Then it was on to the Old Station for the main event. This is a simple, small cafe, in an old railway station waiting room. It has been preserved well, the only modifications being the modern amenities needed to run a cafe. The staff were so friendly. They ask you to book afternoon tea in advance so there is no wait and no unexpected preparation for them on the day. Which works well in the customer’s favour too. The cafe is small with plenty of outdoor seating but on a cold day, you would not want to be lingering over your afternoon feast outside. A table was reserved for us and we were immediately offered drinks while the finishing touches were added to our cake stands.

I was trying to work out what it is about afternoon tea that us Brits love and I came to the conclusion it is your own personal buffet where you don’t have to limit what you have because there is a queue of people behind you, you can have everything on the buffet and more!

tintern-2

We were overwhelmed with the generosity of the portions. Two separate cake stands arrived, one each! There was enough food on one stand for two people, but we were not complaining. The scones, jam and clotted cream were brought out on another plate. The sandwiches were so fresh and the variety was excellent; beef and horseradish, egg mayo, smoked salmon and cream cheese and brie and cranberry. Four different cakes were offered (8 bite size pieces per stand), these too were outstanding. Lesley, the lovely lady who looked after us, kindly offered to wrap up the scones for us to take home, noticing we had stopped eating and were both looking a bit full! The tea and hot water kept coming and we were so well looked after we did not want to leave! Alas with full bellies we headed home for a nap in front of the fire.

It is definitely one to visit for value for money and incredible quality and lovely views of the river. http://www.tinternvillage.co.uk/seedo/tintern-old-station/

Cod Fillet in Red Wine Sauce

The weekend saw me making a delicious slow cooked beef brisket in red wine. For my non- meat eating guest, I always like to make their meal as similar to the main dish as possible. I am not into making a sub standard non- meat option! I was serving goose fat roast potatoes and piles of steamed vegetables so wanted a protein based dish full of richness.

I went for cod fillet, it is a meaty fish that works well with strong flavours. Here is the recipe. As ever measures not included for all ingredients as you can add them to your own taste.

Ingredients- serves 2-3

  • 3 cod fillets
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 3 shallots chopped
  • Red wine
  • Sundried tomatoes chopped
  • Oregano
  • Seasoning
  1. Lightly fry the shallots in a teaspoon of olive oil
  2. Add red wine and let it warm through
  3. Add the tomotoes, sundried tomatoes, oregano and seasoning
  4. Bring the sauce to the boil and let it simmer and thicken (add a little tomato puree).
  5. Place the cod fillets in the sauce to cook. This should take around 5 minutes but check before serving

The sundried tomatoes added a depth to the sauce that compares to the richness of the brisket flavours. You could add some olives to add a saltier taste too.

It was a hearty and warming winter meal. The fish dish was quick and easy so it didn’t feel like I was cooking two separate meals.

Hibernating

In the last 3 months, we have moved house, already decorated two rooms, got a dog, had guests over on 6 weekends, and been out and about at weddings, and other fun events. All the while both working full time over 40 miles away from home. It is safe to say life has been rather busy, and our general domestic organisation has gone a bit awry. We have been grabbing lunch on the go and dinner has been an afterthought at the end of every day, running to the shops and grabbing something quick and easy.

Consequently we are wasting money and probably not eating as healthily as we should be. So I decided to get organised and stock up on delicious hearty meals for the winter.

Our general routine is to plan and buy ingredients for meals in advance from Sunday evening to Thursday night. Friday and Saturday food is planned around other activities. However this does not normally mean bulk or batch cooking, but simply having the right ingredients in to make the meals on the plan.

I see a lot on social media about planning and preparing food to succeed and cooking in bulk reduces cost, but requires time, freezer space and a lot of containers!

So today I have spent £38 which has made enough food for two people for 9 nights (Tue- Thu and Sunday this week and Mon- Thu and Sunday next week), and lunches for two people for 7 days (Wed- Fri this week and Mon- Thu next week). The cost includes the ingredients for the food cooked and the sides required to compliment them; rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes and vegetables.

I have made;

  • Pork Goulash
  • Bolognese
  • Chicken curry
  • Mushroom soup
  • Roasted tomato, red pepper and basil soup

It goes without saying the soups are full of healthy and delicious vegetables, but so are the main dishes. The curry is packed full of aubergine, squash and broccoli, and the bolognese is brimming with peppers, onions and mushrooms. Using lots of fresh veg is a great way to make your meat go further and ensuring you don’t need to cook fresh veg with every meal to make sure you are getting your five a day.

So for one afternoon of work, I will now save time and money in supermarkets and will have more time for long walks in the forest with the dog and making improvements to the house. Not forgetting putting my feet up with a good book in front of the fire!

N xx

 

A wintry twist…

Winter is a time for hibernating, and not just for animals. I like nothing more than being in my kitchen on a cold winters’ day, making delicious hearty meals for family and friends.

Sometimes you can add little twists to some simple meals which enhance had that comforting wintry taste.

“Every person who cooks something has to make the recipe, the foodstuff, his or her own – not by effortful innovation but just by being true to your own taste.” 

As Nigella says everything should be done to your taste, so sometimes when you think a recipe has gone wrong it might be that the ingredients are not balanced for your palate, so experiment and trust your instinct.

Here are a few of my favourites alternatives.

Vivacious vegetables

  • Cinnamon Braised Red Cabbage (serves four)

This is a great addition to a roast dinner and works especially well with lamb.

Shred a whole red cabbage into an ovenproof dish, grate an apple over it, sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of brown sugar and squeeze the juice of half a lemon in. Mix together and pop in the oven for 30- 40 minutes at 180 degrees. I prefer less sugar and more cinnamon but this is a good place to start. You could also add a finely sliced onion which draws out the taste of the spice. If you like more aroma try adding some ginger too.

  • Roasted Winter Vegetable Ragout

This recipe is courtesy of the Gluten Free Goddess  and can be found on her wonderful blog. This would make a perfect side dish to roast chicken or as GFG recommends can be made into a stew or served over pasta.

  • Broccoli in almond butter

Steam or boil your broccoli as normal. In a frying pan melt some butter until it starts to bubble and add flaked almonds. Once toasted add your broccoli and coat in the almond butter and serve. A great warming and comforting side to salmon or trout.

Mash Mix-up

Mash potato is an ultimate comfort food, and goes so well with meat, fish and veg in any form. But potato is not the only veg to give you that soft and nutritious warming feeling. Here are a few uncomplicated alternatives.

  • Sweet potato and marshmallow- I cannot claim credit for this one, its all Nigella. You can find the recipe here. This could be mistaken for a dessert but served with well seasoned meat and stuffing it cuts through and adds a delicious contrast to your meal.
  • Celeriac, garlic and spring onion- celeriac is most easily described as turnip with a mils taste of celery. When boiled it turns soft and creamy, and is great just with butter. However if you fry some fine chopped garlic and lightly fry some spring onion (add for last 2 minutes of cooking the garlic), you can create a whole new kind of champ with a little extra bitterness to your normal potato flavour.
  • Chorizo and chilli mash- this really spices up your mash potato. Fry off some chopped chorizo and add some chilli powder or dried chilli flakes. Make your mash as normal, remove your chorizo from the pan and pop onto kitchen roll to remove some of the oil, then stir into the mash. This is delicious with white fish and steamed spinach, or with chicken.

Deluxe Dumplings

Stew and dumplings is a favourite in our house, especially the dumplings. But they can get a bit bland. You can have some fun with condiments to add a new dimension to your dumpling.

  • Beef Stew- add some horseradish sauce into your dumpling mix.
  • Lamb Stew- add some mint sauce to your dumpling mix. Or roast some garlic cloves and squeeze the warm sweet garlic into your mix with a sprinkle of rosemary.
  • Pork Casserole- add some wholegrain mustard to your mix or some smoked paprika and black pepper adds a Spanish flavour to hold on to those memories of summer.

Hopefully none of these twists are too time consuming or expensive alternatives, but will add that little something special to your meal.

 

 

My local coffee stop…. The Bearpit Social

Although I am a country girl at heart, there are some fantastic perks to working in Bristol City Centre. Cabot Circus and Broadmead on my doorstep, the Watershed a ten minute walk away for lunchtime lectures and entertainment, but most importantly, so much variety for cafe’s and food outlets.

One thing Bristol is great for is independent food and drink establishments. Stoke’s Croft and Gloucester Road are a veritable feast of unusual eateries. My cafe du jour is The Crafty Egg. Essentially you can have eggs in any way imaginable, and some you may not have imagined! An excellent breakfast, brunch or lunch stop! Fresh whole ingredients, fresh hot coffee and a fresh look on eggs; what more could you ask for?

However I digress. The point of this post is to tell you about my coffee place. Yes, I have succumbed to the city worker trait of not being able to enter the office without a take away coffee in hand (and in my case some toast). Ladies and gentlemen there was The Central Perk, there was Cafe Nervosa, there is Kathy’s Cafe; but you have not experienced coffee until you have been to the Bearpit Social.

This cafe operates from a modified shipping container. Taking advantage of local produce and suppliers (the nearest being the fruit and veg stall only ten steps away) they serve everything from  hot drinks, to fresh juices and smoothies and a variety of freshly prepared lunch options. They could not be more accurate with their description of ‘wildly delicious’. Their coffee is outstanding. It is strong in flavour, just how I like it. Its a roast like I have never tasted before and has fast become my morning elixir!

This place is more special than just it’s coffee. Run by a fabulous team, they have done more than open a cafe, but helped to transform a run down area of Bristol (The Bearpit) into a social hub for anyone who passes through. Read the full story here.

So if you happen to be in Bristol and want something a little different, a little on the wild side. Head to the Bearpit Social.

 

Nxx

The Good, the Bad and the Garlic!

Last week was a rather busy yet luxurious week for me, eating out not once but twice. Mid-week I tend not to eat out saving all my fun and treats for the weekend. However a work’s leaving party persuaded me to break from the norm. Later in the week, we were due to go out for a meal with my parents to celebrate a birthday. In the space of three days I had two very different dining experiences, with one thing in common;Garlic.

Wednesday night I found myself at a tapas restaurant in central Bristol. I had actually eaten here a few years ago with friends. My memory told me to be excited. The food had been delicious and more than enough to go round. I don’t often have tapas as my husband is not a fan. The concept of every dish being shared causes great anxiety! So I was looking forward to going back and tucking into some fine Spanish delicacies.

Alas, the experience did not live up to my memory. I don’t know whether I had higher expectations, or whether the place has gone ‘downhill’ a bit, but what a disappointment. We decided on the set menu for £20 (the more expensive of the two). It was a combination of standard tapas dishes, everything from patatas bravas, to meatballs, chorizo and a variety of seafood options like calamari, langoustines and mussels. The food arrived very quickly, which although impressive for a large table, should probably have been a warning sign. Every dish was suffocated by garlic, served with garlic bread and aoili. Now I love garlic, very much and would normally relish the chance to eat as much as possible, but this was too much even for me. All the meat and seafood dishes had the texture of food that had been reheated at a very high temperature very quickly and was quite disgusting, particularly with the seafood dishes. Unfortunately garlic cannot hide that one! So overall a bit disappointing. We were a large table but the first one in that evening, which begged the question, when had the food originally been cooked? It is safe to say I won’t be visiting again in a hurry.

Friday on the other hand proved to be a real treat. We were celebrating the birthday of a lovely lady who is a pescatarian. In a family full of canivores, I thought it would be the perfect time to get the boys out of their comfort zones and find a seafood restaurant. My discovery did not disappoint. We booked a table at The Spiny Lobster in Bristol. I won’t wax lyrical about the menu but let you see for yourself here. I had the most delicious red mullet starter served with shallots, fennel and orange. It tasted of summer and the ingredients combined perfectly to create a delicate flavour that left a sharp, fresh after taste. It went very well with the Vanilla Gin Spritz cocktail. Fun fact: the staff  create their own cocktails, making their own syrups and mixers where they can. You get some unique drinks.

I could not resist the lobster for main course. Half a lobster served in garlic butter, with chips (what else). Oh my it was divine and the novelty of using fancy tools to tuck into your food added to the experience. The garlic butter was light and complimented the sweetness of the meat. We washed down our meals with a couple of bottles of Macon Villages 2014. Again, this was a little different for a predominantly red wine drinking family.

Too full to have a dessert I sampled the homemade Limoncello which I had had my eye on since we walked in the door. By far one of the best Limoncellos I have tasted, on par with those produced in Sorrento. It was sharp and fresh and not diluted with sweet syrup to appeal to the masses.

Overall the evening was a success and a great example of how to use garlic appropriately…

Look out for more of my food adventures in Bristol!

 

 

To breakfast or not to breakfast? That is the question!

There are regularly articles in the media that seem to present an ever changing picture of research as to whether or not having breakfast is good or bad for us. I don’t know about you but my thought process around this debate goes like this…am I hungry? Yes, have some breakfast. Or, no, wait until I am hungry then!

I would say 95% of the time; I have breakfast within an hour of waking up. I love breakfast! Typically I was fond of a carb heavy breakfast; cereal, toast, or pastries. Ultimately I know these are things that are not filling for long enough, but we all have our vices don’t we? At the weekend I call it brunch, because we tend to eat a bit later and it is usually a larger meal (eggs of some sort, full English, etc).

Recently I have become a bit calorie conscious (perpetual on-off dieter that I am). With a holiday coming up in ten weeks and getting the usual bikini body fear, I have been exploring breakfast foods that are tasty, nutritious but also filling without breaking the calorie bank before the day has even begun.

A few months ago I tried Starbucks’ Bircher Muesli. I had not heard of it before, but it looked delicious. My instincts were correct; it was yummy and surprisingly filling for what looked like a small pot.

The guys at mixmyown.com say that the traditional recipe for bircher muesli is pretty simple and consists of key ingredients of rolled oats, milk, apple and lemon juice. Once this combination has soaked overnight you can add any additional ingredients you fancy.

Now this tasty dish might be a revelation to me but has actually been around since the 1900’s. It was developed by a Swiss physician (Maximilian Bircher- Benner) as a healthy breakfast for his patients.

As delicious as the Starbucks pot was, it is not exactly cost effective to be having one every day, so I decided to make my own. I quickly realised there is no hard and fast recipe, but the principle of soaking the oats overnight was the main requirement.

After much experimenting I have found my Bircher Muesli mojo. It ticks all the boxes for me for being simple to make, not time consuming, cheap but still nutritious and filling. Here is my recipe;

 Natasha’s Bircher Muesli (base ingredients make 2 portions, toppings are based on one portion)

Roughly 200 calories per portion

Base Ingredients

50g porridge oats

150ml water (you can use milk, almond milk, coconut water if you prefer, I stick to water)

1 apple grated

Sprinkle of cinnamon to taste

 

Topping

Drizzle of honey

1tbsp Greek yogurt

Handful of berries (I use frozen ones, just remember to defrost the night before)

 

Method

  1. Mix base ingredients in a bowl and leave in the fridge overnight
  2. In the morning mix half the base ingredients with the yogurt and honey (leave other half of the oats in the fridge for the next day)
  3. Sprinkle with fruit and devour!

Do not be fooled into thinking this is similar to instant flavoured porridge that might seem more convenient. Unlike the recipe above, these instant porridges contain a lot of sugar, and although the stated calorie count might be lower (or similar), they are empty calories that won’t keep you as full for as long. Plus, they actually end up being quite expensive.  They are usually on some sort of offer, do not let that fool you, they tend to average costing  about £1.50 per pot. Arguably this is cheaper than the Starbucks muesli pot (£2.35), but my muesli recipe above works out at just under 70p per portion and takes a maximum of 10 minutes preparation time (5 minutes at night and 5 minutes each morning). Winner!

I constantly modify the recipe, you can add more or less water depending on how thick you prefer the texture. You can also experiment with different fruits on top, or perhaps dried fruit, nuts or if you want something more indulgent maybe chocolate chips or crumbled biscuit.

Give it a go, you won’t be sorry!

Pop back and check out more food related posts under the Hearty Recipes and Food Adventures tag.

Nxx